Accumulating evidence suggests that Thaumarchaeota may control nitrification in acidic soils. However, the composition of the thaumarchaeotal communities and their functioning is not well known. Therefore, we studied nitrification activity in relation to abundance and composition of Thaumarchaeota in an acidic red soil from China, using microcosms incubated with and without cellulose amendment. Cellulose was selected to simulate the input of crop residues used to increase soil fertility by local farming. Accumulation of -N was correlated with the growth of Thaumarchaeota as determined by qPCR of 16S rRNA and ammonia monooxygenase (amoA) genes. Both nitrification activity and thaumarchaeotal growth were inhibited by acetylene. They were also inhibited by cellulose amendment, possibly due to the depletion of ammonium by enhanced heterotrophic assimilation. These results indicated that growth of Thaumarchaeota was dependent on ammonia oxidation. The thaumarchaeotal 16S rRNA gene sequences in the red soil were dominated by a clade related to soil fosmid clone 29i4 within the group I.1b, which is widely distributed but so far uncultured. The archaeal amoA sequences were mainly related to the Nitrososphaera sister cluster. These observations suggest that fosmid clone 29i4 and Nitrososphaera sister cluster represent the same group of Thaumarchaeota and dominate ammonia oxidation in acidic red soil.